When childcare backfires! by @TeacherToolkit

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Ross Morrison McGill founded @TeacherToolkit in 2010, and today, he is one of the 'most followed educators'on social media in the world. In 2015, he was nominated as one of the '500 Most Influential People in Britain' by The Sunday Times as a result of...
Read more about @TeacherToolkit

I am no expert on childcare. In fact, despite my 20 years in classrooms, I am a complete novice.

But, I do know when childcare let’s you down.

Believe it or not, I have much to learn about all-things-education. I wouldn’t normally write about Early Years or childcare; but as this blog does discuss the nature of safeguarding students and my own child, I guess it fits nicely with my blog-theme. It is an important message to share.

Image credit: http://politicalirony.com
Image credit: http://politicalirony.com


I have no intention of discussing the full details of my own childcare provider here, but this summary does reflect some minor experiences which are nothing more than my own. So, maybe I am discussing my own childcare provider after-all and remember, it is just one example. Overall, [they] provide an excellent service for my son. But, there have been a few glitches along the way. One, being a minor safeguarding issue (if there is such a thing as a minor safeguarding issue?). Probably not! And secondly, additional holidays that have made it even harder to be physically at work due to childcare services.

Catch 22

No. 1 backfire:

  1. When this particular safeguarding issue reared its ugly head, of course I flagged this up immediately with the manager and they resolved this matter the next working day. I don’t know whether or not ‘opening’ doors later than the published time is a safeguarding issue; but what I do know, is that arriving at 7.30am to hand over your child to somebody else, with nobody is there to safely take them away, is!

In addition, as junior staff arrived to the premises (later than the agreed opening time) to be greeted by two or three parents standing at the locked entrance, standing and waiting with their children is a picture that fills me with dread. Not, that this is the major problem, but seeing other parents forced to leave their 1-3 year old children with a member of staff outside the premises, they are put in a catch-22 situation as they rush off to work! This is clearly a major safeguarding compromise that parents are being forced to make.

Now, let us switch off our ‘safeguarding’ thoughts and put our ‘business-hats’ on for a moment.

  • The provider advertises childcare provision from 7.30am.
  • Staff are paid to be on-site from 7.30am (if not before)!
  • Parents pay for the additional 30 minutes supervision before nursery activities officially start at 8am.
  • A contract is signed and a personalised programme is agreed between parents.
  • As our childcare provider says in their Safeguarding Policy: “We provide adequate and appropriate staffing resources to meet the needs of children.”

Last September, when we first started full-time childcare (5 days a week), this scenario occurred twice over a period of a month. We addressed it then and it has never happened again. However, it recently happened last week when my wife dropped our son off, and she was kept waiting for 30 minutes! She was late for work and hence the reason for this blog.

Photo Credit: thedailyenglishshow via Compfight cc
Photo Credit: thedailyenglishshow via Compfight cc

No. 2 backfire:

  1. Secondly, when having children, I don’t need to tell you that the relatives and support around a family play a significant factor. To ensure safety between home and childcare provision, making the transition for ‘being at work’, easier for you. Your support network is often what makes it all happen. Now, unfortunately, this does not feature in my own personal situation. My wife is a born and bred Londoner. Her closest family member is her brother, who lives 65 miles away in Suffolk. For me, having left ‘the north’ when I was 19, my entire family live 212 miles (as the crow flies) in Lancashire and our extended family are scattered far and wide … So, babysitting is never an option for us. And to cap it off, our most-trusted child-minder has just left on a volunteer-project for 3 months to Malawi.

The second point I raise here, is that our childcare provider was closed for an additional day after the recent Easter holidays. Their dates were advertised on the internet. We even had an email reminder 3 weeks before the holidays started. Given our situation; plus knowing we have already taken several working days off between us (ref. GuiltyTeacher) for our child’s frequent illnesses … we found ourselves in a slight dilemma. Do we take unpaid leave; call in sick; pay for an unknown child-minder; search through our Facebook contacts and so forth.

As a last resort, knowing that my principal was a strong family man, I emailed to ask if I could bring my son into work! I fretted about this decision over the entire holidays. I really didn’t want to miss my examination classes. A definite warning sign of GuiltyTeacher syndrome and feeling ThePinch on performance! But, I justified this decision with other extreme examples of colleagues I had worked with in other schools over the years. I contemplated several scenarios; some other options and many ‘what-ifs?’

My prinicpal’s reply was simple: “Fine with me!”

So, the pressure off. Lovely. No childcare to worry about. No need to feel guilty about being at home – in full health – and not at work. No need to worry about having your salary docked and of course, no safeguarding issues for my son! Yet, what about the school? Was is the legal position? I am sure every school should (and some will) have a policy. What is your headteacher’s view?

  • Are you lucky enough to work in a school with EFYS provision?
  • Do you work in a 3-18 year-old entry school?
  • Do you have a sensible and sympathetic employer who can help out in an emergency?

At work with family:

Although my anxiety was eased, it was increased in many other ways.

At work with Freddie
At work with Freddie

At work (the first day back at school), I achieved nothing. In fact, I think I managed to send an email to all staff, to say ‘welcome back’ and remind staff of all the forthcoming key calendar dates. I also managed to teach a Year 7 Textiles whilst my son sat on the teacher chair ‘playing trains’. A mini-me technician! It was a surreal experience after 20 years in the classroom and one I will never forget. Most importantly, it gave me an opportunity to visualise my son in a school classroom for the very first time and make it a real come-to-life-thought. I considered the quality of teaching he may receive and if his own teachers would face this very rare situation too. I am certain it does happen and I am not the only one.

It was indeed, a significant day for reflection.

After a tiny lunch of cheddar bites and mini-sausages (see photo above), we pushed Thomas The Tank Engine on my office floor. I then whistled him off to my Year 11 Media Studies class for the afternoon. With exam papers in hand and my son under the other arm, I made my way through the playground! Fortunately, I had pre-planned a rote spelling test; media keywords definitions and use of a new revision guide for the forthcoming exam. After 10 minutes, I had managed to send my son asleep in my arms – never mind the Year 11s! It was lovely, but hard work. I had no pram. He was sweating. I was bunged up with a cold and had a small fever brewing too. Despite this, the students were great!

Was it worth it? Would it have been easier to stay at home?

A rock and a hard place?  Photo Credit: Pandiyan via Compfight cc
A rock and a hard place?
Photo Credit: Pandiyan via Compfight cc

Well, sometimes we are all caught between a rock and a hard place. Education (and teaching) is often more than just ‘being at work’. On reflection, staff and students had the opportunity to see me as a human-being and not as a teacher or school leader. An important characteristic for good leadership? The hard part, is not just balancing your own family/home commitments with work, but also being able to work around them when possible. Can you still do the job that is required of you? I know it must not be easy for others, but here’s hoping your employer is more ‘human than leader’ when they need to be.



MumsNet have a great overview of everything parenting. Highly recommended. Tax; child-care and salary implications. are never easy to understand. Over-complicated for those who it is designed to hit hard (in my opinion) and for those who can just about make sense of it all. EYFS statutory guidance is here


This DfE consultation below, seeks views on changes to the provision of early education and childcare as a result of measures in the Children and Families Act 2014. Child-minder agencies are designed to give parents more choice and help with securing childcare that meets their needs.


The Government wants to make more great childcare available for children, and to provide more choice and flexibility for parents. If we want all of our children to succeed at school, go on to university or into an apprenticeship and thrive in later life, then we must get it right in the early years.

I think the quicker the government funds all schools to become 3-18 years, the better. What do you see as the key problems for schools and parents? Thank you to @NancyGedge for her pre-publication thoughts.


14 thoughts on “When childcare backfires! by @TeacherToolkit

  1. I am lucky enough to work in a school with an on-site nursery. Both my children have attended, and I have used the service for the last 6 years. It is a real ‘community’ nursery. They have a garden, at the entrance to the field, we see them walking through the school a few times a day. The children come up to the staff room to sell cookies for charity etc, and dress up to sing Christmas carols in school reception during the last week of winter term. I love the fact that I can wave to my children through my classroom and office windows as they trundle past on their way to plant seeds etc. I have also had the children creating clay tiles in my classroom for Father’s day presents, a nice way to spend some ‘gain time’.

    A few members of school staff set up the on-site creche about 25 yrs ago, after having problems with their own childcare. It is now an ‘outstanding’ rated nursery, and I love going to, and coming home from work with my children every day.

  2. Bless you! A power cut at the village primary and I anticipated the same scenario….( luckily the school took the Dickensian approach and stayed open) I juggle one in a nursery / pre- school and one at primary who needs a wrap around child minder….like you my support network is limited…I can only work in schools a stones throw from home and do get stressed and feel guilt of being a full time working mum…different holidays etc cause all manner of worry…it’s the nature of our job…I don’t have an answer but I feel your pain….

  3. Total nightmare. Really feeling your pain. No support, no relatives. Some lovely friends, but there’s a limit on how much you can impose, if you’re never in a position to return the favour. This is why I got an au pair this year, which has cut my stress levels enormously. All those parents evenings, meetings, late stays etc that meant I wasn’t able to pick them up at 6 from the after school club. And all that hurtling around the county, driving under enormous stress to just about manage (or not quite) to pick the children up on time. Sad dejected faces, because they’re the kids waiting for mummy in the school office.It’s amazing that I teach longer hours this year, but manage to spend more quality time with the children. I’m happier, and so are they. If you can squeeze an au pair into your house, go for it.

  4. I had a similar experience 15 plus years ago when my first son was in a day nursery. The advertised times were 7am – 7pm as it was a workplace nursery for the railway (where my husband worked). As I worked some way away and the route was dreadful in rush hour I used to drop him at 7 to get to school by 8. One afternoon I had a phone call saying that due to safeguarding issues (though I’m sure they weren’t called that back then) the Nursery would now open at 8am. This would start the following morning. Complete nightmare! I spent a week arriving at school just after the children and then got permission from the nursery manager to pay one of the girls who lived near me to have my son at 7.30 and then take him to work with her on the bus. I’m not sure how legal that would be now.

    A colleague once gave me a valuable soundbite to remember – “Your child has only one mother. Any number of people can be your class’s teacher.” In Primary we so often talk about the lack of attention a child receives from their parents as a reason for all sorts of ills, and yet as teacher parents we are often guilty of the same inattention. I have always been lucky to work with people who realise that family should come first – long may it last!

    1. Thank you so much for the quote you gave. Currently deciding whether to return to work full time a year after having my little girl, this has made me realise what is more important! 😀

  5. I received a phone call from my daughters school one Monday morning saying she had fallen and hurt herself badly could I collect her. As I’m a single parent I had to BUT there was no one to cover my classes so I had to seek the heads permission to collect my daughter and bring her into my school. This I did but the head was NOT pleased. What were my choices? Leave my daughter at school? Leave my class without a teacher? I was made to feel responsible for finding the answer…. And it was obvious I made the wrong decision.

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